Inspirational female leaders: Tanya Rukavina

Tanya Rukavina is the senior partner of PwC in Croatia. Located in Zagreb, the firm employs 93 people, 54 percent of whom are female. The firm has a total of two partners—one female (Tanya) and one male.

The percentage of working women in Croatia stands at 58 percent, compared with 71 percent for men. Working hours are long and work life balance is not perceived to be a national government policy priority.

In terms of childcare, services are relatively under-developed. Compulsory schooling starts at the age of seven, and although childcare centres are supported by the government as well as parents' fees, central government support is mainly channelled into pre-school year programmes rather than provision for the under-three year olds. Furthermore, the hours of access to childcare facilities do not match typical working hours and fees are high.

On the upside, maternity leave legislation is better than in a number of other countries around the world: it may commence 45 days before the due date and lasts until one year after birth. Leave is paid at 100 percent until the child reaches six months; thereafter it is paid at a flat rate set by social security. Legislation prohibits the dismissal of a woman who is pregnant or on maternity leave and the woman has the right to return to the same or a similar job after her leave.

Tanya's story: Using your own natural leadership style

My career started with Price Waterhouse (PW) in Vancouver, Canada, where I joined the firm as an audit associate in 1988. I remained in the audit department, working primarily on large pulp/paper and lumber clients until 1993 when I transferred as an audit assistant manager to the PW office in Budapest, Hungary. I remained working in Hungary until 1997, having worked much of that time developing clients in Croatia.

In July 1997, we opened our representative office in Zagreb, and I became the full-time representative in Croatia. Since then, through the merger which created PwC and in various roles, I have remained in Zagreb. I became a partner in 1999 and the country managing partner of PwC Croatia in 2003.

Working in a new, emerging market

My key stepping stone to leadership was my role as the country representative in Croatia. As the firm did not have an office in Croatia until then, this was an opportunity to prove myself in a new, emerging and volatile environment. This was the turning point in my career, as it allowed me to build on my technical, client relationship and general business skills as well as learning to adapt to unpredictable situations. All these skills prepared me for the role I have today.

Moving from Vancouver to Budapest to Zagreb

Having gone through two international experiences, I am a huge supporter of our global mobility programme. It is my belief that each experience, good or bad, enriches us. We function in a global organisation, and the contacts and relationships we build across the world are invaluable for our work.

Using your own natural leadership style

Women do not need to be iron maidens to be good leaders. Each one of us has a natural leadership style which works best for us. Do not pretend to be something you are not just because you think this is expected.

Focusing on skills, not gender

Based on my own experience, I truly believe that if you have the skills, you will be rewarded, man or woman. Do not, as a woman, play the "weaker" role and fall into the trap of using "female issues" as an excuse for your own deficiencies. If you need to build your leadership skills, find a way to get support.